When Young Love Ends – How to Support Your Teenager Through a Breakup

A sad young woman holding her head in her hands - Support Your Teen Through a Breakup

Teen romance is the stuff of many books, television shows, and movies.

Of course, with any teenage romance there often comes a teenage breakup.

In many ways, this is a very challenging time. Yet, it is also an event that most people have experienced during their lives—most likely including you.

Your experience gives you the perfect basis to show support for your teenager during this process and help them find closure.

Being supportive

Leave me alone!

The classic line from any teen! Hearing your teen say “Leave me alone!” may sound like a broken record. However, it is essential that you listen, despite it sounding somewhat trite.

We all need space from time-to-time to grieve. Losing a relationship is undoubtedly a tremendous loss, and no less so in teenage years. Your teen needs time and space to process what has happened. Sometimes that means they need time to be alone with their thoughts and feelings.

However, it’s important that you don’t ignore your teenager in such times. If they ask for space, accommodate them; just make sure to follow up with them later. For instance, you could say, “OK, but can we talk in an hour?”

Avoid this common trap

Often when a child is hurting, it is easy to say, “It’s alright; everything is going to work out.” Of course, in the grand scheme of things. You know this. You have the awareness that comes from having more life experience.

There’s just one problem: your teen doesn’t care about that. Right now, theyare hurting. The breakup—especially if it was their first real relationship—is excruciatingly painful for them, and that’s all they care about right now.

So, avoid glossing over their pain with platitudes, however well intended. When you gloss over their feelings, you’re communicating that it’s not OK for them to feel and express their negative emotions.

Instead of denying their emotions, let your teenager have time to process them. Once that’s accomplished, they can look towards the future.

Helping them find closure

Be available to listen

Let your child know that you are there for them. Listen to them. Acknowledge their feelings. Make sure that they know it is appropriate for them to express themselves.

Teens may want their space, but they also want to feel heard and valued.

But avoid trying to “play therapist.” Instead, try using open-ended questions such as “why” and “how so” to help your teen better understand what happened. Helping them gain understanding leads to closure.

Help them let go

Help your child find some closure once they have processed their emotions. For instance, you could suggest they write a song or poem that expresses what they are feeling. Encourage them to see this as a constructive expression of their feelings (as opposed to destroying an object or burning letters).

Letting go has to do with how your teen incorporates the reality of the breakup into their identity. After all, most likely, they will still see their ex at school or in other activities. Thus, they need to move on while, at the same time, be OK with their ex still being around.

Remember to ensure that they keep the focus on what is best for themselves.

Breaking up in the 21st century

With the rise of social media, breaking up has taken on a whole new meaning. Quite often, relationships can be ended by text message or over social media. Such endings can be very difficult to process, especially if they come out of the blue or without explanation. They can leave your teenager with many unanswered, and often unanswerable, questions that complicate the grieving process.

It could also become a significant problem if your teen remains connected to their ex via social media. Why? Because they may see that their ex is moving on with their life. They may even see posts of their ex with their new flame.

If your teen is still recovering from the breakup, seeing them moving on in life could be painful to experience. Let them know that it is OK to unfriend someone if they choose to. However, if they feel that they are being bullied over this matter online, make sure they get copies of all posts/messages and report it. For further help on bullying, see our other posts.

Losing a relationship is never easy, at any age. Yet, for your teen—especially if it is their first breakup, the pain can seem even greater.

So, be patient, available and willing to listen. Let them know that you are there for them as they go through this troublesome time. A supportive and empathetic parent can help their teen find the closure they need to move on with their life.

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay


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